My top 5 meat-free meals.

It’s Nation Vegetarian Week! Still. Just. We are not vegetarians, but we have gradually cut the frequency that we eat meat, primarily for health reasons. We eat more fish than we used to, and when we do have meat we try to buy higher welfare. I’ll be honest though – it’s not always convenient to source it as part of our weekly shop without going out of our way. We started the year trying to make January an almost meat-free month – saving meat only for weekends and trying new veggie recipes each week. I wanted to explore some different veggie options to the ones we usually fell back on. We did find some new recipes that we loved (Ottolenghi’s green couscous in ‘Plenty’) but were just too much of a faff for everyday cooking. Also, a fussy toddler meant I was making two separate meals, and her diet became very freezer based, so I reverted back to hearty stews and casseroles that we could all enjoy without too much fuss. I still go easy on the meat, but also bulk out with pulses, pearl barley and loads of veg.


Anyway, back to the veg-a-thon. We still fall back on a few meat-free delights on a regular basis, so I thought I’d share them here. I’m not going to give you exact quantities, but I will link to recipes where I can.

Rustic veg pasta

Let us meat-eaters try not to get to stressed about this whole thing & reinvent the wheel, okay? But also, don’t just stew all your veg in tinned tomatoes and then feel disappointed with the whole watery mess and order a lamb curry delivery instead. You’ve got to think flavour and texture at every step and this method keeps the bite on the veg and brings out their flavours too. Yes it’s an extra pan, but who really cleans griddle pans anyway?

Chuck a few sliced garlic cloves into a couple of lugs of oil, maybe a pinch of dried chilli and a spoonful of smoked paprika to boot. Once it become fragrant, add a tin of chopped tomatoes. While this grooves on a low heat, prepare some courgette, onion and pepper for griddling. I like mine chunky, so I go for half moon-ish courgette slices, onion cut into eight segments with root still attached, and peppers in approximate 1″ x 2″ pieces. Some might say you should toss the veg in oil before griddling. I couldn’t possibly comment*. Actually I can – I don’t bother. The veg gets smokier quicker as long as you don’t try to move the veg about until its got properly black lines on it. Otherwise its all a sticky mess. Once griddled, chuck the veg into the sauce and season to taste. Lob some fresh basil in just before serving. I prefer Penne.

Lentil Dhal with Veg Shashlik

This is now one of our top meat-free meals. There are loads of variations on dhal. I can never remember which one I used the last time, so it’s different each time, but always scrummy. Amoung our shelf of chefs we have Hugh F-W’s one and Jack Monroe’s version. In my experience, there isn’t much that can’t be tweaked or saved at the final stage anyway, so just Google one and start trying. Just don’t scrimp on the salt.


For the shashlik, cut your veg into large chunks, eg. onions quartered, small tomato halves, pepper quartered, courgettes 2cm thick slices. Use whatever you have or like – cauliflower & aubergine are other good flavours if you have them. Place chunky veg pieces into a bowl and coat in oil, a liberal sprinkling of paprika (I use a mix of regular and smoked) and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or squeezy lemon if you don’t have fresh). Salt to taste – don’t scrimp! Once coated, griddle on a medium heat until cooked. You may have to batch cook this and remove to a warming drawer or low oven. Serve the shashlik with the dhal and rice.

I also like some fresh chopped tomatoes and onion, and some home made cucumber raita: Dice a few inches of cucumber into 1cm cubes, then sprinkle with salt. Leave for five or so minutes so the salt can help the juices to flow. Dollop on a couple of tablespoons or more of plain yogurt (I use Greek). Add a little splash of milk to thin if necessary – depends on your preference.

Broccoli Pasta

Ok this one is not 100% meat free due to the anchovies, but I have heard some people say you can make it without. I wouldn’t dream of it, but maybe you don’t like anchovies. Anyway, I like to court controversy, so here it is!


It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe from Happy Days and is another regular on our meal plan. It’s thrifty, tasty and quick. At Christmas we subbed the broccoli for shredded sprouts and it was even better! A tip – I find I need a full tin of anchovies and more garlic and chilli than he suggests, but you know, thats just me. If Jamie can’t handle it….


Sounds boring doesn’t it? We call it mega-salad and in this house, it is never anything less. I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs here, but use your imagination and choose flavours you enjoy. There is a great infographic to help you hone your salad-building prowess. A typical meat-free example in this house would be Spinach leaves, cucumber, spring onions, green beans, soya beans, boiled eggs, toasted walnuts or pistachios, basil and mint leaves, roasted butternut or beetroot, grilled halloumi, toasted seeds. Sprinkled with fresh chopped red chilli and large salt flakes for crunch, then drizzled with a dressing like this one or this one or just a good shop-bought one. Don’t make life too difficult for yourself. The virtue of the salad outweighs any slacker-guilt you may experience.




I know I said five meals, but the salad counts as at least two because it is so infinitely adaptable (see photographic evidence above).

So, there you have it carnivorous compadres. My meat-lovers meat-free must-munch meals. You’re most welcome.

*still loving House of Cards.


Happy Things #3

I felt like the last post was a bit moany, so I looked back through my photos and found loads of really happy sunny times! Classic example of how the brain can cling to the negatives. Those seductive little blighters. So here are some happy things from the last few weeks. In your FACE, pesky brain poo’s!

Happy Things 3

1 // The sun is here! The sun is here! The sun is here!

2 // Wriggling my toes in the sand. Eeeee!

3 // Lying on a soft mossy leafy wooded hillside in the quiet morning, listening to nothing but the birds and the sound of a nearby stream. Wherever it is, it’s the best place on earth.

4 // Eating fresh, simple, summery flavours again, like avocados and tomatoes on garlic toast. Quick, simple and delish.

5 // Feeling the motivation to move my body again after a few weeks hiatus. Boom shake shake shake the room. Or the wobbly bits. Whatever.

What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below!

p.s. Linking this post with Mum’s Days & YouBabyMeMummy’s #TheList!


You Baby Me Mummy


26-01-14 Collage
Watching: Breaking Bad, Season Two. Why doesn’t he just accept the help offered by the old grey matter friends. He thinks he’s doing the right thing by his family but really they will be very very cross when they find out. Irritating but compulsive and darkly funny.

Enjoying: Getting to bed at a reasonable hour and reading. Going for walks with my girl. Its still the only time she would nap, so I have seized it and downloaded run keeper. Plus it’s been really crisp and sunny, and it makes me feel good. Harder to do the last few days though, what with these extra wakings making me feel… Ugh!

Reading: Toddlercalm and River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. Look, I’m no fool. I know there’s no magic solution to the trials of parenthood, but that’s what I’m enjoying about this book. It’s about adjusting your expectations rather than trying to fight nature. One of the early chapters, on sleep (the holy grail of parenting books, surely?) in essence is saying, “this is what the majority of babies do. It’s normal.” I can stop asking myself what it is I’m doing wrong, and just try to understand it. Hey, whatever works for each family, right? As for River Cottage – I ordered this to give me some inspiration for family meals we could all enjoy, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed with the recipes, especially after all the reviews on Amazon. But the chapters preceding the recipes are really interesting, so I’m keeping it.

Not enjoying quite so much: The additional wake up calls! After my last sleep post, she did settle down but now she’s started to wake again. I used to breastfeed her at around 4am but now that doesn’t settle her and she jolts awake whenever I go to put her in the cot. The last three nights we’ve been awake for 2 hours straight with constant crying. She’s had cuddles, rocking, pacing, night lights on, night lights off, singing, warm milk, calpol, repeated bedtime routine, our bed, the nursing chair. All fails – she just seems to eventually fall asleep wherever she is (usually in my arms though), after about 2hours of crying. Today she is totally pooped (as am I) and grouchy. And no, she still isn’t napping.

Making it lovely: The bedroom. I finally ‘archived’ the pile of boxes in the bedroom and gave it a tidy up (read: shoved everything into the eaves cupboards. Out of sight…). I also replaced the really manky bedspread with a new one from Sainsburys. It’s not as big but was very warm *sweaty face*. It also makes going to bed earlier feel like a treat instead of just that place we dump our adult shit and crash out.

Eating: Healthier this week. I’m trying to set a positive example to D, so that means healthy snacks or no snacks and eating with her at lunchtimes. It’s certainly a good motivator but still hard to keep from snaffling the odd digestive or jammy toast when I’m feeling tired or cold. Ah… cosy comfort!

Over and out! Off to push the child out in the horrid rainy day of awfulness now, in the hope she will sleep. Zeds.


Slovenly round up post: Part 2.

Luckily once the day arrived, all the doom and gloom and guilt dissolved! The little Chicken’s first Christmas! She loved the puzzle of opening her one present. Yes, ONE present. A wooden xylophone. Well, loads more if you count all the ribbons and bows and wrapping paper. I also managed to sew her a stocking. My Mum sewed, and there was usually a hand sewn gift at Christmas. Luckily, she passed that skill onto me, so when I sew, it still feels like I sew with her, so this is a tradition that I’d like to carry on, and pass on to my daughter too. I stuffed the stocking with clementines, a few of her already established toys: wooden blocks, a ribbon, a rattley thing). Her sippy cup runneth over. She was delighted, so were we.


After a smoked salmon scrambled egg breakfast we walked into the city and to York Minster. Although both raised catholic (hence guilt in previous post) neither of us are religious, but the pomp and ceremony of church is something that we both still find enchanting, especially at Christmas. The light pouring through the Rose Window was incredible, and we showed the little one the nativity scene, and lit candles for the Grandma’s who are missed each and every day of the year, but especially at Christmas.

IMG_1344 IMG_1340

After a lovely day spent with family, we retreated home for Christmas Cake, gin-in-a-tin and Downton Abbey. Don’t. Say. Anything. There was ice-cream and paddling *disapproving face*


So now, to plan for New Year (resolutions, bleugh), and a certain somebody’s very first Birthday Party (Yay!)


Weekend Happenings




It has been a busy weekend, but kind of a homey one too. Mr. Graduated on Friday so threads and lippy were donned, fish and chips eaten and cinema visited – oh how we like to rock celebrations these days!  Christmas cake is baked and will now start the slow and soothing initiation into Winter by being incarcerated in greaseproof paper and brought out once a week for a boozy drink of brandy. Mmmm… the kitchen already smells divine. I love how pretty the fruit and grated citrus looks in this picture.














Mr. Thrifted this yesterday… total score. I have never heard it before but “Who knows where the time goes” used to be my perfect allotment song – mellow, totally chilled and grounded. So as soon as I put this on, I felt the same mellow vibe… I know it’s going to be a firm favourite already.

Happy times all in all! Have a good week, all!



#BEDN Food Glorious Food

I love food me. I’m still breastfeeding so I do have to remind myself that my ridiculous appetite has a legitimate driving force. Lest I do something stupid like try and “diet”. Pah! Not for me I’m afraid, but remind me of that in a few months time, when the little one off the boob and I’m still eating my third portion of Monday night pasta!

Passing on my love of food to the little one, is one of the great pleasures (and sometimes frustrations) of weaning. She usually eats her tea well before us, but when we do get chance to all sit down together, it’s an absolute joy to share the experience with her, especially when recently we gave her her first roast dinner with Yorkshire pudding and all. Already at 10 months, we’ve gone through various stages: not wanting to be spoon fed so having to slave over little veggie muffins and fritters smothered in cream cheese (thank you mamacook) ; everything being rejected unless being covered in yoghurt; loving being spoon fed, when all the lovingly prepared muffins get thrown on the floor with the rest of the finger food; its a constantly changing challenge, but luckily I enjoy food and cooking so most of the time, it’s just a means to discovering something new (sweetcorn fritters are good with sweet chilli sauce mmmm…)


Spinach and cheese pancake was a favourite in the “no spoon” phase of weaning

I’ve simply loads of pictures of my baby’s smiling face covered in various coloured mush, but I’m yet to decide how I feel about blogging pictures of her here. So, here’s some food porn. Well, just cakes really. I just take pictures of cake apparently…

IMG_0691Apple Cake

IMG_0075Wedding cheese ‘cake’


My favourite – Victoria Sponge



Okay – this ones for the squirrels okay?